IndyThis was not a miracle and my name is not “Virgin Mary”.  I added a kitten to my household yesterday.  Indy is my new kitten’s name.  Indy is short for Independence since he was born on the 4th of July.  I have sung Yankee Doodle Dandy to him so many times we are both sick of that song.  

I have an adult female named CraCra (so named because she is certifiably crazy) and so far she is interested but a wee bit standoffish.  That is so much better than angry and aggressive so I am grateful.

Indy is into everything as might be expected of an 8-week-old kitten but falls asleep in about 10 seconds regardless of where he is or what he is doing.   Sleep, play, pee/poop, eat and repeat.  His is a good life!

Just returned from a week at the beach with family.  We had good – actually great – weather and an all around great time.  Flagler Beach has no franchise restaurants so every eatery is funky cool and has some really creative menu items.  On the whole, Flagler Beach is considerably less expensive than Captiva Island which is another family favorite.  

So if anyone reads this feel free to share your favorite vacation spot or perhaps someplace you would like to visit it possible.  

Oh and here is a photo of CraCra investigating our newest family member





Visited my oncologist – the fabulous Dr. Shroff – SmileyFace on Friday for a regular office visit and to have my port flushed.  I was left in the examining room for about an hour waiting for my doctor but I do not get impatient as I know sometimes the prescribed 15 minute appointments run long, particularly if she has to deliver bad news.  And Friday, as I would find out later, was a bad news day for lots of her patients but fortunately for me, I was not among them.

I feel pretty good, have a good head of returning hair, and all systems are “go” for now. If anything I am too fat.  I emerged from chemo in March with incredible aches and pains in my bones and joints so each time I worked out at the gym I couldn’t sleep for the next two days because of the pain in my lower extremities.  As a matter of fact, right before my cancer diagnosis last fall I was investigating alternatives to knee replacement surgery.

My right knee was replaced in 2009 and way back then the ortho doc told me my left knee was not far behind.  That knee surgery in 2009 was big and bad and recovery was difficult so I was actually looking at stem cell therapies that might help me avoid surgery when cancer interrupted my research.

Anyway, despite having put on weight in the past 2 months, my fabulous oncologist could not have been more supportive and encouraging.  She didn’t scold for the added weight.  In fact, she said it was great to see me so hale and hearty (or something like that).  I told her I was going to pursue left knee replacement and she gave it her blessing, encouraging me to do whatever I needed to do to feel good and get back to all my regular routines.   Those routines include regular exercise that requires fully functional knees.

After my visit with my fabulous doctor I was ushered into the chemo room so they could do my blood work and flush the port.  The oncology nurses are just so remarkable they deserve a mention here.  Throughout my four-month chemo journey,  they  delivered that toxic cocktail with great skill, cheerful support, and friendly efficiency.  They have to blend accurate nursing skills with the most elegant customer service skills, and do it with warmth and humor all day every day to folks who are at some of the lowest points of their lives.  They watch some recover, and watch others fade, and still maintain that relentless warmth.  I thank them all each time I visit, but also wanted to make it known here as I suspect many of my fellow cancer patients have had similar experiences.  If you are reading this and had a similar experience, feel free to comment.

Provided cancer stays in my rearview mirror, I will move forward with knee replacement sometime before February 28.  That is when my medical year ends so I would like to get it done this year since I have already met deductible and out-of-pocket.

For now, back to the gym I go.  I need to lose weight and build up strength in both legs which is key to quick recovery from surgery.  To that end, I am headed to the kitchen to whip up a HUGE batch of gazpacho: a crispy, cold summer soup with lots of vegetables and not many calories.


15 working days until I head to the beach for some R&R with family.  Passing through 3 Florida counties will not require a passport but will provide good times!

While we prefer the west coast of Florida, it is just abundantly easier to get to the east coast so we have opted to rent a condo in Flagler Beach.  We can be there in about an hour so it is quite convenient and easy.

I get antsy if I don’t have an adventure planned.  Despite my health issues and accompanying financial woe$, I just couldn’t imagine not going ANYWHERE in 2014.  I love to make packing lists, then revise them, then revise them again and hone and whittle and sharpen and…well, you get my drift.  Honestly, planning is as exciting as going.

Wanderlust is just my nature.  Anyone can work hard to conceal or control their basic nature but I don’t know that it can be changed.  So I hope cancer goes away and stays away.  I hope (and expect) to get all these bills paid quite soon.  Then I hope to get back to daydreaming and bucket list planning and experiencing the joy of discovery that makes me so happy.

I need to visit places like Cooperstown, Cumberland Island, Italy, Washington D.C., Bay of Fundy, and Yellowstone just to name a few.   FlaglerBeach   But I will start with Flagler Beach.

Money2I was diagnosed with breast cancer in early October 2013 and had 11 business days to prepare for double mastectomy. Virtually every other day I was heading somewhere for a test or to fill out paperwork. Not only did I have to take care of so much administrative stuff before surgery, I also had to get my house ready, and I had to make preparations at my job. Needless to say, this was extremely difficult because of the tight time constraints coupled with a diagnosis that scared the begeezus out of me.

One of the many tests my surgeon scheduled for me in the 11 days prior to surgery was a PET scan and an MRI. Perhaps now is a good time to say I am fully insured having a PPO with a major provider via my employer. After surgery on Oct 29 I had to go back for second surgery 3 weeks later for more lymph node removal. Then chemo began Friday the 13th ( I kid you not) of December. 4 months of chemo followed by 33 radiation treatments and I am now trying to return to normal.

About a month after my initial surgery, I received notice from my insurer that my claim for the MRI/PET was being rejected and I should expect to receive a bill from the facility that performed those two diagnostic tests. My insurer let me know I was responsible for payment in full. Shortly after that I got a bill for roughly $8500.00.

So began a frightening journey into insurance hell. I am a smart person but I know virtually nothing about how to fight an insurance company. I felt like a blind person in a cave swinging at lumps of coal. My repeated attempts to resolve were futile. I shared my frustrations with our HR rep at work and he reminded me that our benefits plan included the service of Health Advocate. So I reached out that day and it was one of the best decisions in my life.

First, lucky for me that our HR rep was informed because I certainly was not. Second, I am just so grateful for such a service and happy to know it is another one of my employer-provided benefits.

Working with the Health Advocate rep was simple, timely and straightforward. Communication was always on time and easily understood. I would not have known all the required steps nor the timing of those steps in order to wage a good fight regarding this $8500.00 charge. But my HA rep knew and finally managed to win on our final appeal. I ended up paying $114.00 instead of $8500.00 and this appeal process took about 4+/- months. I would have failed without the assistance of Health Advocate.

I have since recommended the HA services to anyone who will listen. I encourage anyone facing health care issues to investigate HA and utilize them if necessary. I was trying to fight the rejected claim with emotional responses. The Health Advocate is schooled in responding with medical and processional reasoning which certainly has a greater chance for success.

Even fully insured, this cancer battle has been a huge expense that I never saw coming. It would have been so much worse, had I been responsible for that $8500.00 bill.

Thank you new-best-friend Health Advocate! I expect to stay in touch for many years to come.

That’s my story. I hope this is helpful.

Just a great sports/human story from a local guy. Well done J.C.!

Carnahan Chronicles

My son has a very cool mom. On Mother’s Day we took her to St. Petersburg to see the Cleveland Indians play the Tampa Bay Rays. (Moms who love sports are keepers, kids.) We had great seats, right behind the home plate area along the first base side of the park at Tropicana Field.

The best decision we made though was moving across the aisle to sit in a less crowded area, because in the bottom of the seventh inning the most amazing thing happened. Logan Forsythe, whom I admittedly know little about, entered the game as a pinch-hitter and fouled a pitch from Cleveland reliever Marc Rzepczynski in our direction. I stood up and watched as the ball sailed over our heads and bounced off the siding of the second level.

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My hair fell out on  Dec 29th.  Had my final chemo on March 21.  Hair has returned bit by bit.  These are exciting times!  I will need a haircut soon – well a trim anyway.

In my pre-cancer life, I  had short hair for a very long time and I  paid to have highlights for a very long time. Highlights, cut and tip runs about $100.

I am not really sure what color to call my new hair.   Maybe it is grey but because it is so short it kind of appears to be the exact same color as the highlights I used to pay dearly for.  So if I it stays this color or mix of colors I won’t have to pay for those awful chemicals.  Sweet! Who knew cancer could provide such a bonus.

I was chatting with a friend the other day and mentioned that maybe in 30 years we will look back at typical cancer treatments of this era and laugh at how we had to ingest poison (chemo cocktails) in order to get cured.  Maybe it won’t take 30 years.  Or maybe we won’t ever say that.

Either way, I just roll on.  Like deodorant.

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